Thursday, 4 September 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy

"You're Welcome"

"Guardians of the Galaxy" is Marvel studios newest property, directed by James Gunn, and stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel and Dave Bautista as a team of outlaws, out to protect the galaxy from Lee Paces Ronan the Accuser.

If you thought the Avengers had a colourful line-up, boasting a Norse god, a Tinman, a super-soldier from the past and a man with extreme anger-issues, you've seen nothing yet. The Guardians raise you a walking and talking, albeit with a limited vocabulary, tree and a Raccoon proficient in heavy weaponry and demolitions. This movie was considered a risk by many, mainly because the Guardians are among the less well-known heroes in the Marvel universe. If Iron-Man was B-League before he got his movie, The Guardians of the Galaxy were somewhere down in G. And then there were people who thought that a character like Rocket Raccoon could be hard to sell to audiences. Those are the people I don't understand.

Of all the Marvel films so far, this one is definitely the funniest by a wide margin. Groot, the talking Tree voiced by Vin Diesel, Gamora, the green Assassin played by Zoe Saldana, and Drax the Destroyer played by professional wrestler Dave Bautista all get their chance to shine in some way. But the real comedic gold comes from Chris Pratt and Bradley Cooper as Star-Lord and Rocket Raccoon.

Star-Lord aka Peter Quill is from Earth, having been abducted in 1988, a mix between Han Solo and Indiana Jones, and yes, it is as awesome as it sounds. He always has a quick one-liner on hand. He isn't the only one though.

Rocket, a genetically manipulated, half-cyborg rodent matches him line-for-line, steals scenes left and right and is probably going to be everyones favourite Guardian, because, lets be honest here, he is a Raccoon with a gun, how do you top that?

Gamora is a genetically modified trained Asssassin. She is pretty uptight, understandable, since she got "adopted" by the Thanos the mad Titan after he destroyed her home planet, killing her family and transforming her into a ruthless weapon. She has some really touching moments when she tries to convince her sister Nebula to join her instead of fighting for Ronan.

Drax the Destroyer has a personal vendetta against the movies villain, Ronan the Accuser, having witnessed his familys death. Draxs race does not understand metaphors and he has a code of honour, which leads to some pretty fun exchanges. Acting-wise, as a professional wrestler rather than an actor, Bautista is definitely the weak link, but luckily the script and the character work with him and don't ask things of him that he can't deliver. Bautista manages to inject enough likeability and heart into Drax, who is essentially a killing machine.

Then there is Groot. A tree with a heart of gold, probably the character that is most responsible for the growing solidarity between the Guardians. Like Quill, his first thought is not to kill, he is happy to find new friends and is very pro-life in general. Diesel apparently said that getting into Groots character helped him immensely to deal with the death of his close friend Paul Walker and one can see why. He might be limited in his one-liners, but he exudes love and friendship in a way that is rare in a blockbuster these days. That's not to say that he doesn't deliver punishment when it's needed.

The story follows these five in their struggle to obtain/sell/protect the galaxy from a Maltese Falcon/Arc of the Covenant-esque Macguffin called "The Orb", which to noones surprises contains immense power in the form of an infinity stones, the third one we've met so far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They are however not the only ones looking for the Orb, with the big bad Ronan the Accuser hot on their tails. Ronan is a Kree warlord with a grudge against the Nova, a galactic police force that had been involved in a war with the Kree until shortly before the events of this movie. Our villain in this piece cannot accept peace and starts his own campaign.

There are some minor flaws in this movie, most of them only small inconveniences not worth mentioning, but the biggest shortcoming is definitely Ronan. Once again, Marvel delivers a cut-and-dry villain. He is imposing, he is evil, but there is not much more there. He has one interesting scene that I'm not going to spoil, but everything else is very by the numbers. Now this movie had enough on its plate that I guess I understand that they were limited in terms of capacities for adding a great villain next to its five anti-heroes, a whole galaxy and different factions within that galaxy, but still, except for Loki, the only Marvel villain so far that showed any promise was the Winter Soldier, and we will have to wait and see what comes out of that. Personally, I long for a villain that has impact and feels like a real threat. James Spader as Ultron has high expectations to meet.

Apart from that, the final showdown is very similar to what we've seen so far, but it does fit with the space-opera genre, so I'll give this one a pass. Still, this is another part where I want more diversity and creativity from Marvel.

Apart from that... I can't even tell you how excited I am about this movie. I've seen it twice now and it is such a thrilling ride. The comedy elements are perfectly played, giving everyone a time to shine and cracking you up on a regular basis. Meta-humour plays a huge role, undercutting moments that are so well-known that they have become clichéed on a regular basis. It also provides you with some extremely inventive action sequences. Especially the gadgets that Peter Quill uses are amazingly fun to watch.

While the story is really rather simple, but the time that it doesn't use to flesh out the story is used on the characters. A team movie without a lead-up is something Marvel hasn't done yet, but they do it right. We do not learn everything about our characters, but noone is set aside and little bits of background are inserted smoothly into the script. But it doesn't stop there. The movie also has a big supporting cast, filling each faction with multiple characters for you to get invested in. Especially Karen Gillans brilliant portrayal of Nebula and John C. Reillys character add a lot to the experience.

All in all, this is so far the biggest movie of the year, a throne that it might just keep, depending on how much buzz The Hobbit and Mockingjay can generate. It deserves every single penny, because this film is just great. If you haven't seen it yet, go watch it right now, it is great. It also has the greatest tagline of all time.

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